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Pele Experiences:
 Click to hear Audio transcript Click to see Video clip
Emma Kauhi
Keaukaha, 2001
In this clip, Auntie Emma shares the beliefs instilled in her as a child and her experiences with the goddess Pele, having been raised on Pele's lands in Puna, Hawai`i.
Length: 9:14

EMMA KAUHI: Being born and raised in Puna, um ... from a very-at my very young age, I knew, it was drilled in my mind that Puna is Pele's land. Pele's land. I heard it growing up. And uh, and my mom, she's ... she's very ... uh, how should I say it, uh ... she put emphasis on that. Pele, you know. Pele is goddess, it's a goddess. And uh-[CLEARS THROAT]-like I said, Mom is a practicing Catholic all her life. And ... she respects Pele. She said Pele is-is a goddess. But I used the technique that I learned from my mother. And my mother said, You know, when you're born and you're raised there, that is your god, Pele is your-your goddess. Because she made all these rocks out here. What can I tell my mother? I cannot tell her no, she didn't. And she-if she asked me, Who did it? What am I gonna say? [CHUCKLES] Pele is the goddess. Um ... see, and being born in that atmosphere, it wasn't hard for me to believe it. But I think somebody coming ... from California coming to live in Puna, and [CLEARS THROAT] if I have to tell 'em that, Pele is the fire goddess, I don't think they'll-they'll uh ... they'd like to-to believe that or they can't believe it. I mean, it-it's hard. It's hard, it's uh, you know. You-you haven't heard that before, and how could it be. Whereas I lived with it, so yeah, I believe Pele is a goddess.

Mom used to say, Pele can appear, you know, any time. As a beautiful woman, as old lady, a haggard lady. And uh, she's-my mom told me that when you're driving or you're going along and you see somebody on the side of the road, stop and pick them, pick them up. Especially if it's a lady. You can never tell that it might be Tutu Pele. That's the-what they refer to, Tutu Pele. Well ... that's what-uh, that's how I was brought up.

We lived in Kapa`ahu. There's no radio, no TV, no telephone. So you're really isolated. No newspaper and ... the on-first time I read magazine was when my-my dad used to bring magazine to us. And I was already almost a teenager. There was no-no outside uh, communication, so we didn't know ... when the Pele was going to erupt. And the only way we know is-usually we have earthquakes. And our uncle-he was so good at it-when the earth shakes, that's a sign that Pele is going to erupt. But my uncle, he was so good at it. Shake, the earth would shake, and then my auntie-his wife, would say, Ah. We're gonna have a eruption. And Uncle would say, No, I don't think so. It's the way the earth move. Wha-how, I-I don't know. And uh, sure enough, you know, you wait for days, for weeks, and nothing happen, you know that's ... that earthquake didn't mean nothing. And [CLEARS THROAT]-and there were times that we would have an earthquake. And I remember my Uncle Kaipo would say, Ah, Pele is coming back to her home, Halema`uma`u. And lo and behold, at night, we see the glow. That was the first news that we know. Pele is back in the pit. It's with the glow that-at night. So that was our only communication. And so I remember one time, my aunt said, Well, now that Pele has come back to Halema`uma`u, maybe we should go and uh-oh, she was telling uh, my uncle, We should take the kids to go see the Pele. And I remember oh, there were four or five of us piled us in the car. And uh, took us to the volcano. And this was the first time I ever saw the lava activity in Halema`uma`u. But before we went up, my aunt-Mom's sister, told me that when we go, we have to take ho`okupu. And it was first time I heard about ho`okupu. So just about a half a mile from Halema`uma`u, there's a area there. It's almost like a garden of `öhelo berries. Lot of `öhelo berries. And the saying is that that was Pele's favorite, `öhelo berries. And I was forbidden by my mother not to eat the `öhelo berries. That's for Pele. So I never tasted the `öhelo berries. But anyway, we go to the volcano. We stop at this place where the `öhelo berries just growing profusely. And uh, Auntie Luika, Mom's sister, said, "Okay, each child take a little bouquet of these `öhelo berries." And just about a half mile away or less, a half a mile is the Halema`uma`u. And then she said, "Okay, when we go, then this is going to be your ho`okupu." Then we go over there, and we're all praying down to the edge of the crater. And I don't know, she's mumbling something and-and then she tell us to throw our ho`okupu, and we throw our ho`okupu. Throw in the-in the ... Halema`uma`u.

And another time was with my mom. Later. I had my children. So my mom, we saw the glow at night. Mom said, "Okay, Pele is back, so let's take the children up to see the volcano." And so we went ... from Kalapana, you-you go by Kea`au, you stop at Kea`au. And that's where the stores are. So Mom told-my brother was driving, "Stop at the liquor store." So we stopped at the liquor store. Mom got out of the car, she went in the liquor store. I followed her. I'm very inquisitive, you know. And I followed her, and I heard Mama tell the sales lady, "Give me the most expensive gin you have." So the lady got it, and ... and she said, "Wrap it up in a nice" ... uh, "wrapper for a gift." I didn't know what she was doing that for. She didn't explain to me. But anyway, I'm listening. [CHUCKLES] So it was wrapped up in this lovely paper. And we went out. And when she opened the trunk of the car, I noticed she had a branch of ti leaf. And my mother started- "You don't get curious. You don't get inquisitive. [CHUCKLES] You watch and you learn." And I saw the ti leaf, and I thought, "What's this ti leaf got to do" -well, pau ka waha, right? So we went onto Halema`uma`u. Got out of the car, open the trunk, and I watch every move she made. Get this liquor bottle, and get the ti leaf, and wrap it around this ... this liquor bottle. Make it real nice, you know. Okay, we're all ready. Uh, let's go. We got our ho`okupu ready. So we walk up to the edge of the crater and uh ... she was saying something. Like she was chanting, like, but in a soft, soft tone. And there were other people around. Anyway, we-for a little while. And then she threw this ... this was her ho`okupu. She threw it in the Halema`uma`u. And my little kids were over there, you know. And then all of a sudden, Gail said, "Ma, Ma, look at that; look the paper, look the paper!" And when I looked, you know, the paper that was wrapped around that uh, liquor bottle ... was fluttering up. And another one flutter-like it had been torn in bits. And fluttering up. And right away-oh, when you-when you go with my mother, it-that place is sacred. You don't talk loud. When the kids start saying- "Sh-h, keep your voices soft." You know, and kids yelling- "Oh, look at the paper! Sh-h." Well, they listened to her. [CHUCKLES] And uh ... so anyway, that was all over. And we went to the car. Mom said-told me, she said ... "That was a sign. The sign was, Pele has accepted the gift." You know, being all-the wrapper torn up. And that's the way Mom was.

Songs Composed:
Not available at this time. -

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